Mondolkiri’s deputy provincial governor has ordered the return of seven tractors that were originally seized as evidence in an illegal timber smuggling case in February and later taken for personal use by police officers in the province.
“I have asked the provincial police chief [Ouk Samnang] to collect all the tractors and return them to the police station to keep it as evidence for the court process,” deputy provincial governor Yim Luch said on Tuesday.
Brigadier General Samnang admitted the tractors were taken by his officials for personal use, but said he had already ordered them to return the tractors.
“We have investigated and found all the tractors are now being kept at the homes of those police officials,” he said before hanging up on a reporter.
Deputy provincial police chief Sou Sovan said an investigation had been opened into how the officers were allowed to take evidence for personal use.
He said four of the seven tractors were taken by Orn Bunrith, a deputy provincial police chief; Ouch Vuthy, deputy chief of the provincial police’s logistics and finance bureau; In Heng, chief of the provincial police immigration bureau; and Leng Phal, a deputy of Mr. Heng.
He did not know the names of the officers who took the others.
One of the accused officers, Mr. Vuthy, said he had taken a tractor earlier this year to use on his farm after signing a contract with Pen Phally, chief of the province’s anti-economic crime bureau. The contract stipulated that he may have to return the tractor if the court needed it for evidence, he said.
Mr. Phally declined to comment.